[imc-canada] Jane Scharf Letter While In Prison
john at afterfostercare.com
john at afterfostercare.com
Sat Oct 16 11:20:16 PDT 2004
>From the very lowest end of the carrot patch. By Jane Scharf
The Homeless Action Strike protesters experienced an entire summer of
bittersweet persecution, support and victory.
I am speaking to you this time with a strained voice form inside the Ottawa
Why did I get placed in jail for the past month without bail from a peaceful
protest at Ottawa City Hall? Well, the best answer I can give is that Mayor
Bob Chiarelli must not want it to get out that we fought city hall and won.
In other words he doesn’t want the public to know that peaceful protest is
effective. He must have wanted our strike to appear as a defeat.
The strike started on July 1, 2004, with myself and a small rag tag group of
homeless people, Rob Stevenson, Laura Doupe, Chris Keats and Rayn Campbell,
up a tent city at Ottawa City Hall. We demanded reform of police
mistreatment of panhandlers, homeless, and protestors, as well as humane
solutions to homelessness and finally apologies to myself, the seven-year
squatters and Heidi Rimke, for punishing our dissenting voices with bogus
Over the next 2 months the strike, which was dubbed Camp Where-Else by Rob,
expanded to 11 tents, with approximately 20 persons and it continually
gained credibility and momentum. More and more pressure was being put on the
mayor for his violent treatment of panhandlers and homeless protesters.
I was arrested on July 18 and bail orders were placed on me prohibiting me
from attending the protest area. The police moved in the next day and tried
to shut down the strike unsuccessfully because all the homeless protestors
stood their ground.
After police banished me young homeless protester Ryan McGrath picked up the
political ball and reiterated the strike demands in writing to the mayor.
The strike demands received endorsements form a broad range of union
organisation, social activist groups and concerned citizens. Among the
supporters were CUPW, three local chapters of CUPE, the Ottawa District
Labour Council, the National Anti-Poverty Organisation, Ontario coalition
against poverty, the Human Rights monument and a great deal of support came
from the Ottawa-Outaouais Industrial Workers of the World who are
facilitating our panhandlers union.
v Resolution by city council to refrain from ordering the police to
brutalize protestors; stop the punishment and criminalization of dissent.
v Resolution by city council to cease ordering the police and the state
to arrest and prosecute panhandlers if they are not aggressive.
v Resolution to find immediate and humane solutions to homelessness
v Public apology to Jane Scharf and the other Homeless Action Strike
protesters, to Heidi Rimke and to all the members of the Seven Year Squat
for the criminalization of our dissenting voices in direct violation of our
constitutional right to freely express our political opinions on social
problems without prosecution.
On August 16, 2004 the strikers called a rally in the form of an arrest the
We plastered wanted posters all over town. The poster warned that the
renegade mayor is wanted for continually inciting police to violence
against, panhandlers, homeless persons and protesters. The Citizen Posse
that showed up outside the mayors office on August 16 stormed the building
when security delivered them a message that the mayor would not meet with
them because they had a dead issue. The protesters stormed in past security
and demanded to meet the mayor to make their charges. They got the mayor to
listen after playing a siren, blowing whiles and knocking on the locked
doors for over an hour while demanding into a megaphone for the mayor to
come out with his hands up.
Police told one of the homeless protesters Jesse McVicar in an aggressive
intimidating tone “if you don’t leave you will be removed.”
Jesse leaned forwarded and firmly replied, “or we will be arrested.” A few
minutes later the group was advised that the mayor would meet with them.
The mayor met with our negotiation team on August 24 which was comprised of
3 members of the Homeless Action Strike, Proshanto Smith, Khalid Lasfar,
Karen Dawe and also Dave Bleakney from CUPW and Sean McKenny of the Ottawa
and District Labour.
We also had problems with interference of the protest by the police Major
Events Liaison Team and by two city councillors. A few homeless protestors
were given resources and money to try and get them to steer our demands for
reform of city practices to that of demands for provincial reform.
During negotiations Councillor Doug Thompson tried to make a phoney deal
with a few of the protestors who had been acting as police informants. This
deal would have defeated the protest demands. The deal which we captured on
tape was for city council to write a letter to the federal and provincial
government outlining our concerns. This deal was blocked by Khalid Lasfar
who interjected that the three individuals did not have the authority to
make a deal for the entire group and this deal did not relate to our demands
which was for reform of city policies and practices..
Ultimately this police and city interference was defeated when old school
Eric Tweedie provided an non-violent intervention with the police informants
who were being manipulated to try and defeat our strike.
Over the next two days a 3 point peaceful resolution was reached by 4 o’clock
on August 26. This resolution was brokered by Sean McKenny of the Ottawa and
District Labour Council. The resolution included:
1.. An inquiry into the city’s mistreatment of panhandlers and homeless
2.. An inquiry into the city’s mistreatment of protestors.
3.. Human resolution to homelessness, beginning with a comprehensive
response to the needs to our homeless protesters.
Conclusion of the strike was agreed upon for 4 o’clock on August 28.
At 5 p.m. Aug 26 2 of the protesters, Bill Boyd and his partner Teresa
participated in their enhanced housing assessment at Catherine street
welfare office accompanied by Sean McKenny thus making the beginning of the
implementation of the peaceful deal.
I went home that evening with what I thought was a reasonable and peaceful
resolution which had began to be implemented in good faith. My feelings of
good faith did not last long as the mayor without warning or cause ordered
the police to shut down the protest by force at 1:00 am August 27 in the
rain. Particularly disturbing about this police violence against homeless
protestors was the desecration of their sign.
The sign read:
"The Land on which this structure stands is part of the traditional
territories of the Algonquin Anisnabe people whose current home is a reserve
at Golden Lake. We have occupied these lands since time immemorial. It is
fitting that this symbol should stand here as a reminder of the suffering of
oppressed people everywhere and of our faith in the wisdom of the Great
Spirit and the promise of life, dignity, freedom and equality for all living
beings. We welcome all who come here to share in our hope."
Police slashing of the sigh with a machete we experienced as their violent
disregard for the poor and the right to protest. The desecrated sigh
flapped in the wind as police continued to take down the homeless tent city
I was arrested at the mayor’s office on August 27 when I went to complain
against this violent attack on our protest after we have concluded a
peaceful resolution which was in progress. I ended up in jail without bail
because again this year police had used bogus charges and arbitrary bail
orders to prohibit my attendance at the protest site.
The Justice of the Peace in my bail hearing ruled that I was no threat to
safety or propriety whatsoever. However, he still ordered that I be held in
jail because he said if I was released people will loose confidence in the
Prison conditions in here are deplorable due to lack of resources and staff.
In spite of the stress and discomfort on the regular women dorms due to poor
conditions and under staffing, I experienced great satisfaction in our
complete solidarity and victories in making improvements in our conditions.
We sent 3 letters to the administration signed by all which resolved 90% of
our issues. I am proud to be part of this group of women who are operating
currently as a collective with no leader.
The only serious issue we were unable to resolve was the lack of resources
available to the woman incarcerated here. Before Mike Harris and the
Conservatives came to power each inmate received $10 a week for toiletries
and incidental needs now they receiving nothing. The allocation of
toiletries in here are grossly inadequate. This problem needs immediate
We each struggle to maintain our rights and dignity while attending
carefully to the rights and dignity of the others. And now these woman have
all become my sisters in a special sense of the word.
I also feel great gratitude toward my beloved community for committing their
time, energy and resources to getting me released and effectively
represented in court.
I have two lawyers that have agreed to take my case Dominic Lamb and Clayton
Ruby, as well as 3 law students organized by Sarah Dover of Toronto. An
effective defence of my case will illuminate and hopefully irradiate the
human rights and liberties violations inherent in the government’s use of
the criminal justice system against peaceful protesters.
Particularly the unions and social activists are helping to organize and
fund raise around my defence, as they understand the significance of
successfully defending the right to protest without politicians using police
to thwart our efforts. Right from a few weeks after police brought charges
against me in order to shut down the Homeless Action Strike last year on
instructions from the city the crown has been trying to cut a deal with me.
They want me to plead guilty with a promise of an unconditional discharge.
If I take this bait then the malfeasance of the police/city/crown will go
unchallenged because I will be regarded as guilty of the charges they
accused me of to shut down the strike.
The charge from last year was for erecting a business sign which was
actually our protest sign. It said “Living at the Ritz under the Bridge.”
After they charged me with obstruct police for not giving them the sign for
evidence that I had erected a business sign they posted bail conditions that
I could not go within 100 meters of the protest site.
This year I was arrested for obstruct police for trying to defend an
innocent homeless young woman from arrest. Police refused to take any
witness statements that could have cleared her. Rather they aggressively
arrested her claiming that her lawyer could bring the witnesses to court to
After my arrest the police placed bail conditions on me that I could not go
to city hall or the courthouse even though 1) my crime had nothing to do
with city hall or the courthouse 2) I posed no threat to the public or
property which must be the case for bail conditions curtailing liberty 3)
such a restriction is a blatant violation of my right to protest not to
mention basic liberty.
Two days later I was arrested for going to the courthouse to sign a court
ordered a surety for the youth who was arrested.
And a few weeks later I was arrested when I went to the Homeless Action
Strike site in response to an emergency.
And finally I was arrested for going to the mayors office to confront the
mayor about the police raid on the camp at 1:00 am August 27 7 hours after
our peaceful resolution had begun to be implemented and 35 hours before the
voluntarily agreed upon closing of the camp.
The strikers successfully acquired an inquiry into the city’s mistreatment
of panhandlers and homeless persons. However, the mayor is reneging on his
commitment to investigate the mistreatment of the city’s protestors.
I hope to get out soon because I am badly in need of emotional comfort. We
do the best we can to comfort each other in here but we are all vulnerable
and hurting badly from this outrageous assault on our liberty and dignity.
And telephone contact and a two twenty minute visits per week behind glass
with phones does not cut it.
Postscript: I am now free after 38 days of incarceration with no bail
conditions on my liberty. However, I still face the charge of mischief from
last summer and the charge of obstruct police from this summer.
The Foster Care Council of Canada
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